I know, it’s cheating right? Not necessarily. I have a different view of tracing.
A fear of drawing seems to be a student’s number one fear. A fear like that should not keep someone from learning the technical skills of painting. So, in my classes I offer a drawing for those who would otherwise be too afraid to come to give painting a try. They can relax, trace the drawing on their paper, then learn a few technical skills and build up their creativity, too.
Some believe tracing is a big no-no! Many think that it is cheating, including the students who do it. But after many years of teaching, I find it is just the opposite. It is an excellent tool of sorts to teach drawing to the skittish. I am talking about “mindful” tracing, not the kind where you’re chit-chatting with your neighbor while you do it. That, in fact, is the only thing wrong with tracing — that you can do it while your mind is completely elsewhere. Whereas in drawing from life, you have to be totally focused on what you are doing. So, if you use that same focus when you are tracing you will get many of the same benefits. Yes you will. Don’t argue. Think about it.
For example, when you draw a line, whether it be from life or by tracing you are using the same mental process. The same coordination between the eyes and the hand that you use if you’re actually drawing from life. When you draw something in front of you, you are actually tracing that form in your mind. Your eye sees a portion of that line and you keep that vision in your mind while you mentally project it onto your paper. And then you try to draw a line that matches that mental image. Eventually, with practice you get quite good at it. And it is the same with tracing.
MINDFUL TRACING TEACHES YOU
- To notice details as you record them on the paper.
- Move your eye and hand together.
- Commit to memory the details of each and every object you trace. Especially if you do them many times over a period of time, even if there’s a big gap of time in between.
- Tracing is also a great way to become familiar with the figure and how to draw it. You can even learn directly from the best by tracing over the figures drawn by the Masters.
TRACING IS USEFUL IN OTHER WAYS TOO
Take a look at these examples below. When painting from a photograph in the studio, or sometimes before going out on location to sketch, I sometimes do the following exercise.
I find both of these subjects rather difficult to draw. So, I help myself out. I lay a sheet of tracing paper over the photo and trace it. Suddenly what was very daunting has been turned into simple shapes. The tangle of objects in the photos has been simplified and doesn’t seem nearly as difficult to draw. Not only that, it helps me clarify the composition. But that is fodder for another blog post.
So you see, tracing IS valid. I tell my students not to feel guilty about tracing. It is only cheating if you use it to pass off someone else’s work as your own. It is never dishonest to use it as a tool for improving your own skill.
That being said, I don’t want to give you the impression that tracing is a substitute for drawing. It’s not. Drawing can be one of the most pleasurable and fulfilling activities for an artist. And everyone should be exposed to that pleasure! Everyone, and I repeat EVERYONE, can learn to draw. Of this I am certain. Most everyone has a fear of it, and most everyone can use some help learning how to do it. That’s normal.
If you are curious about learning to draw, you may be interested in my 30-day Drawing Challenge. It’s FREE and still on my website. It will only scare you a little…..and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. You can do it. Here’s a direct link: http://www.kathiegeorge.com/category/lessons/30day/.
And now, on a personal note, my life has gotten rather complicated lately. I know that all of you occasionally have the same sort of situation. I guess it is just part of life. However, there may be times in the next few months that ‘TIPS on Tuesday” may become ‘Every Other Tuesday Tips”. I will do my best, but please forgive the occasional miss.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks Kathie. I love reading your Tuesday tips. The 30 day challenge is great. It really helped me and my confidence level with drawing
Thanks Kathie for another nice Tues morning e-mail. You’ve had a busy travel/teaching schedule and we all appreciate your Tues inspiration & tips. You really have taught everyone to enjoy the “journey” of drawing & painting with your unending enthusiasm! Most of all be good to yourself as you work through these next few months & we’ll see you again when you pop in to our homes on another Tuesday tip day! Until next time sneak in some time for you! 🙂
Thank you Mary Ann and Barb…..two wonderful people, the both of you!
Kathie, I am always so thrilled to open my emails on a Tuesday and see you there. I truly appreciate the time you take out of your very busy schedule to share your expertise with us. And I know all too well how life can get in the way. I am preparing for yet another move so my painting days are put on hold for a while. Please take time for yourself and get as much enjoyment as you can, when you can. I’m actually moving up very close to you!! So hopefully I can come for painting sometime in the future!! Take good care of yourself!! You deserve it !
You’re moving by me? Where?!
Good one, Kathy – Thanx – As a child, I was always “accused” of tracing( by teachers) – incredible how those mean things said forever ago stay with you. I have a small bunch of grandchildren – and they are encouraged to use whatever tools they care to with pride 🙂
Good for you, Alicia!
Even before I opened your email this morning I thought “How in the world does this woman keep up this pace?” It seems whenever and wherever I look at art related websites you are there. As much as we enjoy and learn from your generous teaching we care more about you as a person and trust you will be as giving to yourself as you are to everyone else. Take care.
I would advise anyone to do your drawing challenge. I gained courage and accepted a commission I would not have tried had it not been for that month of drawing with you! It’s amazing what “every day discipline” can do for an artist. Any time you do another, I’m in!!!
I second and third all the above comments. Thank you for the tracing push. I have a tendency to not do anything because I’m still having trouble drawing everyday for practice. Relax and enjoy whatever you are doing. Being too busy will wear you out and none of us want that to happen. xoxo
Love your Tuesday Tips and keeping up on your travel teaching. Someday maybe I can join you on one of your traveling seminars. But for now it is pratice, pratice, pratice. Take care and have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas. The girls in the NEDA Chapter still talk about the classes you taught in our chapter. It was so much fun. Take care and will look for your next Tuesday Tip.
Thank you Kathy for introducing me to tracing! My first watercolor class was with you at a workshop. I chose a pattern and traced it on to my rice paper and then painted it. I was hooked on painting with watercolor! I thought I could never paint because I could not draw ( or so I thought). I came home and kept on tracing and painting . Little by little I have been drawing more and more…. And I have been painting a lot because I allow myself to trace.
Thanks for giving me permission to trace….. And have the most fun and rewarding hobby!
I’m so looking forward to your class at Artful Endeavors next week in Raleigh, well worth the 6 hour drive from Hiawassee, Ga ! !
Hi Kathie! You need your own TV show! I love your blog because you write just like you talk – joyfully, interestingly, and cutely! And I ALWAYS learn something..
Thanks for all you do!
Hi Kathie, you are such a tiny bundle of talented creative energy……it’s no wonder you need to pace yourself a bit. It’s amazing all you seem to fit in your schedule. A lesser person would be worn out so take care of yourself.
Loved our workshop with you last weekend and I’m so excited about the upcoming trip. We truly have appreciated all you have taught & shared, along with all your encouragement. Thanks for noting your 30 day challenge again. I’m now inspired to draw & paint more.
Thanks once again for a great Tuesday Tip, I will encourage my students to go to the 30 day drawing challenge, thanks for keeping it up for others to use. Still keeping you all in my prayers. Safe travels!
Love your Tuesday Tips. Will miss the missed ones… But totally understand!!! I so much enjoyed our workshop!! I want to do some more scarves and am anxious to make my art journals. Will post photos when I do. Enjoy your adventures and take care of yourself!!
Thanks for the ‘permission!’ to trace. What a great idea for me…I love those complicated scenes of rooftops, etc, and have some great photos, but could do nothing with them — I thought. Now I will try to trace them AND will have a resource to return to again and again for new subjects.
Also: you just go and do your thing; no worries. We always do ours, right? We are happy when you drop in on Tuesdays, but life intervenes. I’ll be thinking of you and grateful to you for giving me so many creative ideas… ;0)